Mobile industry rolls out code of practice for minors

4 May 2006

A Code of Practice aimed at safeguarding children’s access to content and services on mobile phones has been agreed on by the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources Noel Dempsey TD and the main Irish-based mobile network operators.

The Code of Practice has been committed to by Vodafone, O2, Meteor and 3 Ireland as members of the Irish Cellular Industry Association.

The Code is designed to ensure the protection of children and give parents and carers reassurances and confidence in the safety of the latest mobile technology.

The launch of the Code will be followed by a national awareness campaign coordinated by the Irish Cellular Industry Association.

Jackie van den Bergh, Chairperson of the ICIA, said: “Mobile communication is an essential part of modern life and, as technology advances, we remain dedicated to the safe and responsible use of mobile phones. The industry is committed to co-operating with all parties involved in implementing a Code of Practice that will have a major role in safeguarding all of our children.”

The Code was developed following concerns in the past two years over incidents involving inappropriate use of camera phones and incidents leading to bullying as well as the growing tide of unsolicited SMS all of which are leading to mounting concerns among parents. Other issues such as ring tone companies using premium messaging to extort money from minors and effectively their parents have emerged in the past few years.

The Code of Practice establishes requirements that each mobile operator will adhere to on a wide range of issues such as: parental controls for a minor’s access to mobile services; malicious or offensive person-to-person communications; unsolicited commercial communications (spam); internet access; premium rate services; and access controls for age-restricted services.

In terms of providing access controls for age-restricted services an Independent Mobile Classification Body of Ireland (IMCBI) is to be established, which will publish a framework for classifying commercial content unsuitable for customers under the age of eighteen years.

Commenting on the Code of Practice, Minister Dempsey said: “I am pleased to lead this industry initiative to develop and implement common measures to ensure appropriate safeguards for the protection of minors.

“I welcome the operators’ co-operation and the positive approach taken by the industry. The Code is to be welcomed as a significant contribution to the community and in particular to the protection of young people in our society,” the Minister said.

By John Kennedy